Lessons, Re-Learned

For me, this is a time of imminent loss. One of my longest-standing, dearest friends is fighting for his life. Now, he is the proverbial tough old bird and if anyone can beat these particular odds it will be this guy. But for the foreseeable future, the next text or phone call could bring terrible news.

As I scrap this or that “important” plan in order to spend a few minutes clunking around his hospital room or assisting his family in some small way, I’m re-reminded of the few things that matter to me.

1) My loved ones.

2) Writing.

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3) Getting my head into the present tense so I can appreciate what is happening while it is happening. Such as walking on the bluffs by the ocean and… catching paragliders taking their turns at launch… or witnessing brilliantly graceful pelicans come in for their awkward landings, right next to harbor seals who lounge unperturbed:

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And, oh yeah,
4) My health.

When I was younger, I knew these things, too. But when I was younger, I more often lost touch with truth.

I’m so grateful I got to get old and I look forward to figuring more stuff out. While remembering the stuff I already figured out.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was “lines”.)

Moments Now vs. Moments Later

I know I’m not alone with this dilemma: the more photographs I take, the harder it is to enjoy the moment. That camera-phone stuck to my face – that oh! good shot! scrutiny – blocks my senses.

But if I’ve got photographs, I can re-live (a weak yet satisfying imitation of) that moment. Without photographs, all I’d remember would be the beach with the pier is nice at sunset:

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By the time I uploaded my photos, I’d forgotten how the surf distorted the pier’s reflection:

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Nowadays, I’m really trying to live in the moment, so as I continued my walk, I pocketed my phone. Then unpocketed it. Many times.

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Capturing a pelican on camera marks a different kind of living in the moment:

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One of the great things about the beach is how quickly everything changes. Every moment really does last a moment. Here’s what happened to the sunset when the fog got just a bit thicker:

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One solution to photographing my moments away might be to keep going back to the beach. I don’t need photo memories of stuff I do and see all the time – do I? Hmm. My photo library draws a different conclusion:

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My cats and my granddaughter. I’m lucky enough to see both all the time. Yet the photo library keeps growing in both categories… Thank goodness for the digital photo era.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Broken.)

The Lame and the Sublime

Yellow cheers me. It’s true – and a reminder that cliches become cliches because they are true.

I approached the topic of the latest WordPress photo challenge with dismay or maybe disdain. Yellow. Lame. Does an orange cat count? Maybe I’ll sit this one out. But then I was out for a walk at sunset and this sky reminded me of how important yellow can be:

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Blue. Black. Purple. Red. At different times, each has been my favorite color. Yellow has never topped my favorite list, but when it’s in a group it always wins my attention and my heart. I decided the sunset was a sign that I should do the photo challenge and I kept my camera out until dark. It was reassuring to know the universe was helping me make life’s big decisions.

At my front window I caught a reflection of the sunset, plus holiday lights in my front room, and a distant glow of bedroom light:

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(Those power lines are reflections; they are not in my front room.)

A patio light had sunset glimpses behind its lattice fence:

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I’ve got lights outside for the holidays, and this one sucked all the sunset out of the view. Yellow is like that:

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On my front door is a wreath with dangling folk art animals. The last rays of sun turned this gator’s scales gold:

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Near the gator hangs a big cat which gleamed yellow-white in the sunset. I could never figure out what kind of big cat this was supposed to be, even before the sun bleached most of the color from its fur:

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That’s one beauty of folk art. Interpretation is loose and never literal.

From my backyard, I watched the sun finish setting over the top of my home and the mountains. That warm glow is from my kitchen:

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(The thick diagonal line across the window is a branch in the foreground.)

So, okay, WordPress knows best and this photo challenge turned out to be sublime.

For my fellow nerds, I’ve used the wonders of the internet to determine that a typical yellow has a wavelength of 570 nanometers. That’s a short wavelength. Only orange and red are shorter.

Now we know.

Shadow Worlds

Which came first, the idea or my belief in it? I’m not sure. I am deep into writing of the second novel in the FRAMES series, in which seemingly inanimate objects like books and buildings are sentient beings. And – guess what? Everywhere I look I see objects that appear to be more than objects.

Is this a new perspective? Or did I always see things this way but have no reason to think twice about it? Certainly, I’ve always been fascinated by shadows and reflections and silhouettes – their ability to reproduce while distorting, maintaining the familiar within the strange.

Case in point. Below is a staircase banister at the Egyptian Theater, a deco movie palace in Hollywood, CA. In silhouette, the banister’s reptilian underpinnings become apparent. I see a head in profile, facing right. The iris bisects an eye that narrows to a point, into an elongated snout that slopes down and to the right, out of frame…

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You see that too, right?

Right?

How about this one? The ocean has carved creatures in this eroded beach wall. You see this furry guy with the long nose, right?:

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In this post-apocalyptic sunset, the creatures line up looking frail:

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You see them, right?

This WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Silhouettes.

But It’s Not a Dry Heat

I once left southern California because of the summers. Three months of baking heat, plus smog and wildfires, plus people saying at least it’s a dry heat. I had enough and I moved to Oregon, where the summers brought morning dew, long warm days, late evening sunsets. Yes, Oregon summers are delightful, but the other three seasons are atrocious, and the sun disappears some time in October then does not return until May. Only people from Michigan and North Dakota like Oregon weather; in Oregon, they are trading up.

At some point I realized I had swapped 3 months of bad weather for 9 months of bad weather, and I returned to southern California where I belong. Nowadays, I no longer mind the long hot summers. I can even sort of tolerate the humid days, with the mantra sweat is a good thing. Southern California is usually in single digit humidity, so when we’re at, say, 70% humidity for days in a row, everyone fusses and the weather becomes the lead news story.

With high humidity come more interesting cloud formations than we usually get.

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And of course clouds can do such nice things to a sunset:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Summer Lovin’.

A Vertical Tide Pool

Let’s face it, erosion is inevitable. In the pictures below, what you will see was once a sea wall, that is, a futile attempt to keep sand where we humans think it should stay. The ocean moved the sand, as it always does; and the ocean removed pieces of the wall, one chemically weathered molecule at a time. The result is a relic that charges my imagination every time I visit its beach, in Santa Barbara, California.

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This former seawall now evokes a line of creatures.

 

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The creatures have tide pools growing up their sides!

 

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I’m guessing that the tidepool growth protects the remaining wall from more erosion.

 

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Detail of a creature’s “leg”.

 

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At the feet, anemones are open for business.

 

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The dense organization of shells makes complex designs in the creature’s hide!

 

The original image.

Sunset instills its own magic on the scene.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic was “Relic”.

More Than States of Mind?

I like my absurdly early, outdoor exercise class because it lets me watch the sun come up. To me, every sunrise offers hope and promise – so seeing the sun rise starts my day right. I do my best to appreciate sunset, too, which brings me calm, an easing of the day’s stresses. When you think about it, it really is amazing that we have these glories to enjoy every single day!

Given the difference in psychological impact between sunrise and sunset, I would expect the two events to be readily distinguishable in my photographs. But I don’t think I could tell one from the other if I didn’t remember when I took the pictures. So maybe it’s not sunlight at a low angle that makes these times of day so special. Maybe it’s the quality of the air that has such distinct impacts on me each morning and evening. Or maybe it’s the sounds of all the birds who are so active as the sun rises or sets.

Or maybe the difference is all in my expectations.

Or maybe I am missing some obvious distinguishing feature of the photos. How about you? Can you tell which of the photos below show sunrise, and which show sunset? (Answers on page 2.)

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

(The topic of a recent WP Weekly Photo Challenge was contrasts.)

PhotoTravelog: Honolulu, Hawaii

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the first time, and now here are some posts to share some of the experience.

Oahu is one of the smallest of the Hawaiian islands, and by far the most densely populated. I made the trip for work, so I spent most of my time indoors in meetings. Still, I managed to enjoy a week of sunrise and sunset at the beach, and although I was “stuck” in tourist-riddled Waikiki Beach – well, there are reasons that locations become popular, and here the natural beauty shines through the murk of tourism and overpopulation. Honolulu may be the least lovely spot in Hawaii, but that least surpasses many a most.

To get to Hawaii from Los Angeles I took a five hour flight over the Pacific Ocean.

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Traffic sucked on the shuttle from the airport to Waikiki. Turns out traffic sucks everywhere in Honolulu. I could even see traffic snarls from my hotel room.

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Fortunately my room had a big window and this was the rest of the view, at night

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and during the day.

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I was on the 17th floor and I kept the large window open all the time to luscious warm fresh air.

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The harbor water is brown for at least two reasons. The rocks and dirt are all volcanic – very high in iron –  which makes standing water look rusty.

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Also, the harbor water is filthy. You probably can’t see the black fish nibbling this trash from below.

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Best to view the harbor at night, especially when the neighboring hotel stages its weekly fireworks display.

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One wonders whether the hotels also stage the vast number of rainbows that materialize over their roofs. Many are double rainbows.

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Here’s a rainbow with a nearly full moon, just prior to a golden sunset.

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I spent my days at meetings in the convention center, where this was the view of the ocean.

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But the sunsets were my own to enjoy.

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And I was up to await the dawn, just like these palm trees.

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Amazing how many people were in the water at dawn!

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Hawaiian beaches are gorgeous yet incomplete, as they lack pelicans. There are plenty of pigeons and seagulls. Also, this handsome bird hung out with fisherman near a bridge.

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He never let me get any closer than this. Catlike, he would walk  as though indifferent to me, but aware of my every move, to maintain this distance whether I slowed down, sped up, or stopped.

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I have multiple  pictures of this bird, taken on more than one day, all at this distance.

This is the first of three posts about my trip to Hawaii. I also blogged about a walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head and glimpses of non-tourist Oahu.

The Art of Letting Go

My son and daughter have grown up. They are 20 now (yep, twins), and launched on their personal trajectories – to what heights and distances, none of us can yet say. I am in awe of the people they have become, so clever and kind, funny and wise. I love spending time with them, and am all too aware that I do so in an extended magic moment, before they settle into the careers and families that will take them farther from my own orbit.

My daughter’s university is a two hour drive away, and a couple times each term I drive up to spend the day with her. We’ve developed a routine: we go out for a meal, we share a long walk and talk on the beach, and then I buy her some groceries. Most recently, we saw this sunset together:

Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara, January, 2014.

Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara, January, 2014.

My son – and daughter, when she is home – enjoy a lot of live music together. Their musical interests are broader and deeper than mine, but we have many overlaps and intersections, and have each shared great finds with the others.

Still can’t decide whether this is a good mom or bad mom anecdote: The first time I took them to a concert, they were 12 or 13, and we went to see one of my favorite bands from the old days, X. The band had recently reformed to do the occasional “oldies” show, and they were as good as ever.

Here is what X were like back when they were not much older than my kids are now.

In the old days, I hated the crowd at X shows –  slamming, spitting, too much intrusion of personal space and sharing of bodily fluids for me! But at the new shows the mosh pit was small and friendly, and many of the attendees were clearly there with their kids – or grandkids.  So I brought my kids to a show in Orange County. Well, apparently that is where all the nasty fans went to die, or beget new generations. The music was awesome but the room was filled with disgusting drunks (vomiting on themselves without realizing it, that kind of thing). Oops. My kids loved the music but my son still complains that I wouldn’t let him enter the mosh pit, and my daughter still gets grossed out by the smell of beer.

Here is what X looked like last week, when my son and I went to see them at a Whisky-a-Go-Go 50th anniversary celebration:

X at the Whiskey on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, January, 2014.

X at the Whisky on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, January, 2014.

We don’t usually attend “oldies” shows – we’d rather hear something new – but we’ll keep going to X shows as long as there are X shows. Don’t know how long that may be – serious health problems in the band – which adds bittersweet  to each performance.

When my children were growing up, my most debilitating parental fear was that someday, they would spend time with their mother strictly to fulfill obligations. As is typical with all my free-floating worries, this one consumed much psychic energy for no good reason. At last I might be sort of, kind of, sometimes learning to cease all that worrying. Which leaves me more open to appreciate my moments with my kids right now.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is family.)